Town Creek: Warning sirens failed to sound before a tornado struck a north Alabama community last week, killing two people, but officials said it probably wouldn’t have mattered even if they had. The area where an EF-2 tornado hit near Town Creek is too far away from warning sirens to have made a difference for the victims even if they went off, said Johnny Cantrell, director of the Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency. The National Weather Service said a tornado touched down Dec. 16 south of Town Creek, went over a mountain and dipped down again before destroying everything in a path that was 370 yards wide at its maximum. A husband and wife died, and their 7-year-old son was among the injured. Town Creek Mayor Mike Parker said neither of the community’s two storm sirens emitted a warning before the killer tornado. Cantrell said the siren system is based on a concept that is decades-old, and he favors having a severe weather application for cellphones so residents in a storm’s path can be notified. He said he will continue to look at more modern notification systems and look for money to fund the application.
Anchorage: The Matanuska-Susitna Borough has declared a local emergency from flooding brought on by an ice jam in Willow Creek. Borough Mayor Vern Halter in his declaration Monday night asked Gov. Mike Dunleavy to declare a state disaster for the affected areas. Halter cited severe threats to life and property, lack of access to homes and property damage loss. “The severity and magnitude of the flooding emergency is beyond the timely and effective response capability of the local resources,” he said. The ice jam Saturday night sent floodwater into nearby homes. At least 13 households were forced to evacuate, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Six were damaged by floodwater. Residents who chose to stay behind to tend to animals were cut off from leaving their neighborhood, KTUU-TV reported. Emergency workers on Monday used amphibious all-terrain vehicles and boats to shuttle people in and out so they could buy food, fuel and medications. There had been little change in the ice jam from Sunday to Monday, said borough emergency services director Ken Barkley. Ice jams have occurred during spring breakup but presented an unusual challenge in early winter, Barkley said. The temperature at 7 a.m. Tuesday in Willow was 6 degrees.
Tucson: Officials said City Hall had been bugged for several months – with bedbugs, that is. The Arizona Daily Star reported officials said it took nearly three months to remove the small insects from the municipal building. The first report of bed bugs came in late September, with an employee reporting finding a dead bedbug in a file folder on the third floor. A week later, the second report surfaced with the sighting of a bedbug on the fourth floor. As a precaution, exterminators sprayed every floor of City Hall to get rid of the little bloodsuckers. Officials believe the bedbugs were brought in accidentally from an outside source. Tucson spokesman Andy Squire said after the three-month removal, the city also had to hire a Phoenix company earlier this month to bring in a specially trained dog to sniff the remaining bugs out. City officials estimated it cost about $7,853 to get rid of the infestation, with nearly half paying for the bedbug-sniffing dog.
Little Rock: An Arkansas fire chief has donated a kidney to a teenager he didn’t know. Maumelle Fire Chief Gerald Ezell told KATV that the surgery took place Dec. 13, two days after he met 18-year-old Sidney Burnett of Granby, Missouri. Ezell said he discovered Burnett was in need when he saw a Facebook post from her mother, an old school friend. He realized they had the same blood type. “I just felt like God was saying, ‘Hey, this is you,’” Ezell said. “Step across that line.” The transplant was performed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Burnett is still in Minnesota recovering from the surgery. “I was just so shocked that my donor was someone that had never even met me, but I’m so grateful for him,” she said. “He literally gave me my life back.”
Sacramento: A study released this week has found that a law aimed at boosting vaccination rates across California had the greatest effect in high-risk areas where the vaccination rates were the lowest. The peer-reviewed study published in the journal PLOS Medicine on Monday showed that the 2016 legislation contributed to a 3.3% increase statewide for measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and a 2.4% decrease in the number of requests for nonmedical or personal belief exemptions to childhood vaccination requirements. California adopted the strictest childhood vaccination laws in the nation after public health officials connected more than 100 measles cases to an outbreak at Disneyland that began in December 2014. The law requires children to be vaccinated to attend public or private schools. It allows for medical exemptions if there is a clear medical reason that children should not be vaccinated.
Silverton: A fire that destroyed a historic building in a small mountain town in southwestern Colorado over the weekend led to power, internet and cellphone outages and took more than half of the town’s stored water to fight, officials said. The fire, which was reported about 10 p.m. Saturday, took nearly 17 hours to extinguish in subfreezing temperatures and used so much water that city officials asked residents of the small mountain town to voluntarily conserve water for a couple of days until storage tanks could refill, the Durango Herald reported Monday. Initially, “there was no way to get the word out,” to the town’s 400 residents, said John Sites, Silverton’s director of Public Works. Patrons at a brewery who spotted the fire were unable to use their cellphones to call 911 because of the outage. Fortunately, the brewery had a landline. The fire damaged a power line and CenturyLink line that run through the alley behind the gift and souvenir store that was destroyed, said San Juan County spokeswoman DeAnne Gallegos. Power was out for about six hours as outside temperatures dipped as low minus-10 degrees. Other wireless providers rely on CenturyLink’s line, so they were out of service as well. The fire was under control at 6 a.m., but Silverton’s fire crews continued to put out hot spots until 4 p.m. Sunday, said Gilbert Archuleta, chief of the Silverton-San Juan County Fire and Rescue Authority. The cause of the fire is unknown. Foul play is not suspected, Archuleta said.
Hartford: The state has been awarded a nearly $27 million federal grant to help further enhance early childhood development programs, the administration of Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday. The Preschool Development Birth through Five grant will help the state Office of Early Childhood design and launch better, more cost-effective systems to support family resilience and early childhood development. In addition to giving parents a greater voice, it focuses on developing and retaining the early childhood workforce. Connecticut was positioned to win the grant because the office is a national model integrating programs for young children and families, Commissioner Beth Bye said in a statement. Through a family-centered approach, the office serves thousands of children each year through child care, preschool, home visiting, health and safety assurance, early intervention, and parenting support. The three-year grant award starts Jan. 1.
Lewes: Partially treated wastewater is being released from a treatment plant because of an equipment malfunction that state officials said cannot be immediately fixed. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control learned of the equipment malfunction at the Lewes wastewater treatment plant on Dec. 18, according to a press release Monday. Residents in the Lewes area are being asked to take water conservation measures until a resolution is announced, news outlets reported. Those measures include reducing shower time, avoiding multiple partial loads of laundry or dishwashing and minimizing “unnecessary flushing of toilets,” according to the release. DNREC said the plant has been bypassing stages of wastewater treatment since Dec. 19. Crews are screening the partially-treated wastewater effluent to remove visible solids, and a hydrogen peroxide feed is being used to reduce bacteria, state officials said. An emergency shellfish closure order has been issued by DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin for harvest areas downstream from the plant. The closure will continue for 21 days after the malfunction is fixed per U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines, according to the release.
District of Columbia
Washington: Two people were injured in a fire at a home for people recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. D.C. Fire and first responders arrived at the scene early Monday and found three people were trapped inside, news outlets reported. Once rescued, two of those people were taken to a hospital to be treated for injuries not considered to be life-threatening. The third person declined medical treatment. Fire department spokesman Vito Maggiolo said most residents were alerted to the blaze by working fire alarms and were able to escape on their own. The fire’s cause still is under investigation. The D.C. mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services and Red Cross are helping displaced residents, of which there are about 16. The home is part of the Oxford House network, which seeks to help residents with sobriety.
Miami: Two more cases of dengue fever have been discovered in Miami-Dade County, bringing the total for the year to 14. The Miami Herald reported that it represents an uptick in reported cases of the mosquito-borne tropical disease. It continues to spread rapidly through Latin America, raising concerns that the number of cases in Miami will continue to rise. The Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County said the latest two cases are geographically linked to a travel-related case, but the department didn’t release additional details. Common symptoms of dengue virus include fever and one or more of the following: headache; eye pain; muscle, joint or bone pain; rash; nausea and vomiting; or unusual bleeding such as nose and gum bleeds. The disease is spread through the bite of an Aedes aegypti mosquito, the same insect that also spreads the chikungunya and Zika viruses. According to the Florida Department of Health, Miami-Dade has had the most cases of locally transmitted dengue in the state this year, with only Broward and Hillsborough reporting other cases – one in each county.
Atlanta: Republican Gov. Brian Kemp submitted twin plans requesting that President Donald Trump’s administration allow changes to federal government subsidies for health insurance. Kemp said proposed changes to former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act would give individuals and families less expensive coverage options, a particular benefit for those who don’t qualify for federal subsidies to cover premiums. Critics said it would drive up insurance costs for older and sicker people. Kemp also wants to offer subsidized coverage to a fraction of Georgia’s uninsured poor if they worked or went to school for 80 or more hours a month. Kemp’s administration projects the expansion would cover 50,000 people, far less than the 400,000 uninsured Georgians who might be covered by the Medicaid expansion originally envisioned by the overhaul. This second proposal, aimed at people earning incomes of up to 100% of the federal poverty level, echoes those made by other states. Federal officials have rejected some similar partial expansions.
Honolulu: The Hawaii Department of Education won a federal grant of nearly $50 million for a long-term effort to enhance literacy among children, officials said. Education officials said the grant will be used to foster skills from infancy through high school, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. The Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant spans five years and will focus on disadvantaged students, officials said. The state education department will begin seeking applicants in January for the effort that will use techniques grounded in data. The funds will supplement current instruction combined with other approaches known to be effective, from family education and engagement to ensuring educators at all levels have necessary tools and training, officials said. The $49.8 million grant will be divided among grade levels, with 40% to elementary schools, 40% to secondary schools and 15% to early education from birth to age 5. The remaining 5% at the state level will cover grant administration and program monitoring, officials said.
Lewiston: Environmental groups have written a letter to the U.S. Forest Service requesting more time for public comment on plans for Idaho’s Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest. The coalition of a dozen environmental advocacy organizations sent a letter to the agency Monday asking for a 90-day extension because of interruptions caused by the holiday season, The Lewiston Tribune reported. The letter to Nez Perce-Clearwater Supervisor Cheryl Probert said the Dec. 20 release of the draft forest plan revision and environmental impact statement effectively removes about two weeks from the 90-day comment period. Even those with time to examine the document are not likely to be able to reach forest service employees during holiday break periods, the groups said. The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest did not immediately return a call from the Associated Press on Tuesday. The two draft documents released by the forest service broadly describe the management of Nez Perce-Clearwater for the next 15 to 20 years. The documents are revisions of the individual Nez Perce and Clearwater forest plans that were last updated in 1987.
Springfield: A new study has found no evidence to corroborate that a beaver-skin stovepipe hat – for years a centerpiece of Illinois’ Abraham Lincoln museum – ever belonged to the 16th U.S. president, according to a published report. Among the findings spelled out in a 54-page report was that the hat, once appraised at $6.5 million, didn’t appear to be Lincoln’s size and that descendants of the original collectors weren’t aware of the claim Lincoln had owned it, WBEZ reported Tuesday, citing a copy of the study. The 16-month study also criticized a lack of due diligence to verify any link between the hat and Lincoln before it was purchased in 2007 and went on display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. The hat was later purchased in 2007 by the private Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation from collector Louise Taper for display at the Springfield museum. It was the headliner in a wider Taper collection, for which the foundation paid around $25 million. The collection also included the bloodied gloves Lincoln wore to the theater the night he was shot. With secret doubts of their own, the private foundation sought to authenticate the hat over recent years, including a failed attempt to match DNA on the hat to Lincoln.
Bloomington: A group working to create a monument to the lead character in “Star Trek: Voyager,” Capt. Kathryn Janeway, has met its crowdfunding campaign goal of $12,500. The Captain Janeway Bloomington Collective will receive matching funds from the Indiana Housing & Community Development. That gives them enough to build it. Peter Kaczmarcyk and his wife, Mary Beth, have headed up efforts to create the monument this year. On May 23 – three days after Bloomington-native Janeway’s fictional birthday in the 24th century – a bust bearing the likeness of actress Kate Mulgrew will be unveiled in downtown Bloomington. Included in the design is a limestone base in the shape of the Starfleet insignia; and an informational table with information about the USS Voyager captain, series writer and producer Jeri Taylor and their local connections. Taylor is also a Bloomington native and earned her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in 1959. Initially, the unveiling was planned for May 20, the character’s birthday, but Kaczmarczyk said so many people expressed interest in attending that they decided to move it to the weekend.
Washington: A former bricklayer made a deal with a retirement home that when he became a resident, it would to allow him to put up a display of model trains. Jim Bennett of Washington said the holiday season is his favorite time for the past 10 years because he gets to practice and display his enthusiasm for being a train engineer, KCRG-TV reported. His train display is in the lobby of the United Presbyterian Home in the town of 7,400 people about 50 miles south of Cedar Rapids. He has posted hours of operation so that visitors can see it for more than three hours on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and Bennett said he will likely leave the display up through February. Bennett said he has always loved building toy trains, repairing them and watching them cruise around the tracks. But as he got older and moved into the retirement home, he worried he would not have a chance to ever bring out the sets again.
Osawatomie: Fire officials said a driver for the U.S. Postal Service “saved Christmas” after his delivery truck caught fire. The Wichita Eagle reported that firefighters in Osawatomie on Sunday posted photos on the volunteer department’s Facebook page of the smoldering and badly damaged engine compartment of the mail truck. The area of the driver’s seat also appeared to be damaged. But several packages, including Amazon Prime shipping boxes, were removed by the driver and placed in a ditch a safe distance from the burning vehicle. The driver’s name was not released. “Your Prime delivery may have just lost its Prime,” The Osawatomie Volunteer Fire Department said in the Facebook post. “The good news is, the driver saved Christmas!” Osawatomie is a town of 4,500 residents about 60 miles southwest of Kansas City, Missouri.
Louisville: The Marian Group said Monday it has withdrawn from a development agreement to transform a site in Paristown that was home to the old Urban Government Center. Louisville chose The Marian Group in 2017 to develop the roughly 2-acre lot in Paristown Pointe at 814 Vine St. as the first part of a larger mixed-use development. The developer planned to build 22 modern shotgun homes on the vacant lot, angering some neighbors because it marked an increase from the 12 shotgun homes originally proposed. In a letter Monday to Louisville Forward, the city’s development branch, legal counsel for the developers wrote that the reason for withdrawing was the city’s failure to obtain rezoning, demolition permits and other waivers for the project, which it had to complete by Dec. 31. The development agreement called for the city, not the developer, to be responsible for those tasks. Caitlin Bowling, a spokeswoman for Louisville Forward, said the termination had been received and “we respect their decision.”
Abbeville: A Roman Catholic church decided to disperse some blessings to a local town via crop dusters. According to a Facebook post from the Diocese of Lafayette on Sunday, members of St. Anne Church on Cow Island called upon crop duster pilots to help spread their blessing to the community. The Rev. Matthew Barzare and parishioners of the church loaded 100 gallons of holy water into the planes, and the pilots sprayed the water onto the town and the nearby farms, KATC-TV reported. Parishioners also bought water from their homes to the airstrip to be blessed by Barzare. The idea came from L’Eryn Detraz, a Cow Island native who is a missionary stationed in Ohio. Cow Island is an unincorporated community in Vermilion Parish approximately 38 miles south of Lafayette.
Orono: A University of Maine Cooperative Extension program that provides fresh produce for people in need has reached 3 million pounds of donations. Maine Harvest for the Hunger has existed since 2000 and donated more than 193,000 pounds of produce from more than 120 farms in the state this year. The donations went to more than 200 hunger-relief distribution sites, the university said. In nearly two decades in existence, Harvest for the Hunger has “mobilized Master Gardener Volunteers, home gardeners, farmers, businesses, schools, and civic groups to grow, glean, and donate quality produce to distribution sites (pantries, shelters, community meals) and directly to neighbors in need,” the university said in a statement. The value of the produce harvested this year was estimated at more than $300,000, the university said.
Salisbury: Advanced Industrial Solutions, the United Kingdom’s largest provider of offshore wind industry training, will open a Salisbury facility in early 2020. The new training hub, created in partnership with Salisbury-based welding company ARCON, will begin hiring instructors in February or March, said ARCON President and CEO Katarina Ennerfelt. In total, the number of permanent new jobs at the training center in Northwood Industrial Park will likely be in the dozens, said Salisbury Mayor Jake Day. The safety training – which includes fire, first aid, material handling and working at heights – is required for technicians working on offshore wind projects and is regulated by an international standard under the Global Wind Organisation. As a whole, the renewable energy sector is expected to add 40,000 new jobs nationwide by 2030. Although the first trainees sent to the new facility will likely be training to work on offshore wind projects elsewhere across the U.S., the center will be available to train workers for wind projects set for the waters off Ocean City, Day said. ARCON has operated a welding services training center at its Northwood location since 2015.
Boston: Public health officials are seeking organizations to set up centers where people can be monitored after using illicit drugs. These planned “medical observation and monitoring services” would be staffed by nurses and other clinicians, who would monitor the clients’ vital signs, administer oxygen, intravenous fluids and the overdose-reversing drug naloxone if necessary, the Boston Globe reported Wednesday. The clients will be able to remain anonymous and receive counseling, treatment for infections and wounds, and help with obtaining primary health care and addiction treatment. People will not be allowed to use drugs inside these centers, a marked difference from the concept of “safe consumption sites.” The state’s Department of Public Health is seeking bids to create three to five monitoring sites. Each would serve five to 10 people who have taken too much of a sedative, such as heroin or fentanyl, or a stimulant, such as cocaine or methamphetamine. The site locations have not yet been determined. The observation centers were part of a $5 million item in the state budget, which charges the public health department with promoting “harm reduction” to reduce the bad consequences of drug use.
Lansing: A black rhino that is part of a critically endangered species delivered her first calf at a Lansing zoo, officials announced on Christmas Eve. The unnamed calf was born at Potter Park Zoo on Tuesday before 6 a.m. The 12-year-old mother, Doppsee, nuzzled her baby within minutes and the calf was standing up about 90 minutes later, according to the zoo. The calf, which is bonding with its mother, won’t be seen by the public until the spring of next year. Both animals will be monitored closely for the next few weeks. “This is a monumental moment for Potter Park Zoo that has taken our staff years of planning and hard work,” director Cynthia Wagner said. “We are dedicated to conserving rhinos and couldn’t be more excited about this successful black rhino birth.” Zoo officials said that the species is at risk of extinction because of illegal poaching and habitat loss. Dozens of sites are making conservation efforts, zoo officials said. The newborn’s father, Phineus, came to the zoo from Texas in 2017.
St. Cloud: A light breeze and blue skies greeted a 30-by-60-foot American flag as it was unfurled for the first time Friday during a ceremony at Minnesota Truck Headquarters. The flag will fly atop a 150-foot flagpole, the largest dedicated flagpole in the state, according to general manager Rick Wildtraut. A tower at Millerbernd Manufacturing in Winsted is taller, but that light tower is used for other purposes for most of the year. A flag is flown on holidays and during the town’s festival and is not on daily display. In June, Ryan Electric built a 100-foot-tall flagpole at their offices in St. Cloud. The tallest flagpole in the U.S. is 400 at the Acuity Insurance company between Green Bay and Milwaukee.
McComb: A scraggly metal Christmas tree planted in a pothole has inspired a minister to pen a holiday song. The Rev. Leon Hitchens of Webb Chapel Church in Liberty wrote “Pothole Christmas Tree” after local radio host Fern Crossley showed him the makeshift holiday scene, the Enterprise-Journal of McComb reported. The song celebrates John Drummond, who stuck the base of a wire Christmas tree into the traffic cone sticking out of the pothole. Neighbors decorated it with tinsel, ornaments and a large star on the top. An Associated Press account went worldwide, leading to additional coverage by Fox News. Drivers are now going out of their way to check out the pothole and its decoration. The city board said at last week’s meeting that crews are repairing poles as tight finances allow, and a $3.2 million bond issue dedicated to street paving might let the city fill others. Although many people take down their Christmas trees by New Year’s Day, it’s uncertain whether the city will have the pothole fixed by then.
California: A mid-Missouri couple is donating more than 3,000 pairs of socks to homeless people as part of a program to honor their late son. The Columbia Missourian reported that Janet and Edward Miller of California started Gentle Ben’s Socks for the Homeless in memory of their son, Ben, who died of a brain aneurysm in 2017 at age 34. Janet Miller said socks are the most needed and least donated items for homeless people. The couple collected 900 pairs of socks in their first year. This year, the goal was 2,000 pairs, but they ended up with 3,100 pairs. The socks were donated at collection bins in California and Jefferson City. The socks will be donated to three Columbia organizations that help the homeless.
Real Life. Real News. Real Voices
Help us tell more of the stories that matterBecome a founding member
Kalispell: Warm temperatures and a lack of snow in the Kalispell area has led to the cancellation of a planned skijoring competition this weekend. Skijoring is a winter sport where skiers are pulled by horses through a course and over jumps. Organizers of Skijoring at Rebecca Farm said the events scheduled for Saturday and Sunday have been canceled and would not be rescheduled. Last year’s planned event was postponed to March 2019, also because of a lack of snow. Then, the first day of the competition was canceled because of severe cold. Skijoring America lists eight other competitions this season, including five more in Montana and one each in Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming.
Eustis: A western Nebraska woman is known in her town as “The Santa Lady” because she has collected more than 9,000 items related to jolly old Saint Nick over 50-plus years. The North Platte Telegraph reported that Santa items fill both floors and every room, including the bathrooms, of Nancy Laier’s home in Eustis, a village of about 370 people about 165 miles west of Lincoln. She gives tours of her home – but asks that visitors call in advance to make sure she’s home. Laier said she began her collection sometime in the 1960s, when the first Pizza Hut restaurant came to North Platte, about 50 miles to the northwest. She said it had a drawing for a Santa doll; she entered her infant son, and he won. She said she found a lot of items when others threw them away.
Reno: Tire chains or vehicles with FWD/AWD with snow tires were required if people were trying to drive over Donner Summit on Interstate 80 or the Mt. Rose Highway on Wednesday morning, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation. Chains were also required at Lake Tahoe on SR-28 from the Nevada/California state line in Crystal Bay to U.S. 50 near South Lake. Snowfall over Donner Summit on Tuesday night closed Interstate 80 because of several spinouts over the summit, but the road has reopened. The chain controls were later dropped for travel on Interstate 80.
Concord: State police helped to deliver a baby on Interstate 93 early Christmas morning. State police posted the news and a photo with the baby and parents at the hospital on social media Wednesday morning. State police Sgt. Vincent Grieco, Trooper Ryan St. Cyr and Boscawen Police Officer Ryan Nolan helped welcome baby Dominic into the world in Concord shortly after midnight, WMUR-TV reported. “All are happy, healthy and overjoyed to be spending Christmas together,” the state police post said.
Trenton: Thirteen bears were killed last week as the state concluded the second phase of its black bear hunt, according to wildlife officials. The hunt initially was scheduled for six days and ended Dec. 14, with 37 bears being culled overall. But it was extended for four more days because the harvest objectives for the year had not been met, and the hunt resumed Dec. 18. The state’s bear management policy mandates that the hunting season will be extended by four days if less than 20% of tagged bears are killed. The harvest rate for the season stood at 14.7% when the decision to extend the hunt was made, marking the third straight year that the hunt has been prolonged. That harvest rate is deemed necessary to provide better ecological balance to the bear population and reduce the potential for bear-human encounters. Officials have said 265 bears were harvested during the first phase of the hunt, which took in place in October. Overall, 315 bruins were killed during this year’s hunts.
Santa Fe: State officials are urging residents and visitors to spend some time outside on the first day of the year. The State Parks Division is holding a series of hikes at nine state parks on New Year’s Day as part of the annual First Day Hikes initiative. In addition to the hikes, visitors can also participate in Polar Bear Plunges at Storrie Lake State Park in Las Vegas and Eagle Nest Lake State Park in Eagle Nest. The participating parks range from Navajo Lake State Park in the northwest corner to Cerrillos Hills near Santa Fe and Pancho Villa and Leasburg Dam parks in southern New Mexico. At Elephant Butte, the dam is only open to pedestrian traffic one day a year for First Day Hikes. The New Year’s Day tradition happens nationwide. Last year, the National Association of State Park Directors reported that nearly 55,000 people rang in the New Year, collectively hiking more than 133,000 miles throughout the country on the guided hikes.
New York City: The city is expanding a program to use mobile units to reach hundreds of people who are mentally ill, the city announced Monday. The city said in a release that it will spend $9.4 million to boost its mobile mental health treatment teams, which were launched in 2016. The city said the new money will be part of a $21 million investment that will lead to the hiring of more social workers, housing specialists and legal assistance employees. The additional workers will be needed to process the 20% increase in mental health referrals the effort is expected to generate, the city said, adding that it will likely reach 900 more people annually. In addition, the city said it plans to spend $11 million to create hospital-based outreach teams to coordinate care for people who frequent emergency rooms and acute care facilities.
Charlotte: A college student hailed by police as a hero for preventing more injuries and deaths after a gunman opened fire in a classroom has been immortalized as a Jedi by the production company for the Star Wars franchise. News outlets reported the family of Riley Howell, a University of North Carolina at Charlotte student who is described as a huge Star Wars fan, was tipped off by Lucasfilm in May that it planned to honor him in a forthcoming book, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – The Visual Dictionary.” Howell, 21, and a classmate died April 30 when a gunman opened fire in a classroom in the Kennedy building on UNCC’s campus. Four other students were injured, but police said Howell’s actions prevented more injuries or loss of life. The book was released by publisher DK to coincide with the release of the film “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” The entry in the book is just 66 words, but credits Jedi master and historian “Ri-Lee Howell” with collecting “many of the earliest accounts of exploration and codifications of The Force.” Howell’s mother, Natalie Henry-Howell, told The Charlotte Observer this marks the second time her son has appeared in a “Star Wars” book: When he was younger, an uncle had a personalized book made for Riley that put him in the starring role of “The Phantom Menace.”
Fargo: Firefighters continued a 30-year tradition of delivering gifts to children at hospitals in Fargo on Christmas Day. KFGO-AM reported the tradition began in 1990 when the 3-year-old son of a Fargo firefighter was hospitalized and worried that Santa Claus would not be able to find him. The gifts this year are given in memory of Keaton Nelson, who made his Make-a-Wish be for gifts to be delivered to other hospitalized children. Nelson died from complications from Cystic Fibrosis.
Columbus: The Bureau of Motor Vehicles plans to begin a vehicle safety recall notification program using the state’s vehicle registration renewal process. Vehicle safety recall information will be printed on registration renewal notices sent through the mail, the bureau said in a news release. Customers will begin receiving open recall notifications beginning in January under the new program. Drivers who are not the original owners of a vehicle might not be aware of an open recall, officials said. An open recall will not interfere with a Ohioans’ ability to renew their vehicle registration, according to the bureau. BMV customers are advised to check their Vehicle Identification Numbers for open recalls by using the VIN look-up tool on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. They also can contact their authorized dealer.
Oklahoma City: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s top adviser on tribal issues announced her resignation on Monday and accused the governor of creating an ‘unnecessary conflict’ with the tribes over casino gambling. Lisa Billy, a former Republican lawmaker and Stitt’s secretary of Native American Affairs, said in her resignation letter that Stitt’s position on the compacts poses a threat to the state’s economy and its relationship with the tribes. Stitt said in a statement he was grateful for Billy’s service and he remains committed to working collaboratively with the tribes. `The governor caught many tribal leaders off guard last summer when he announced in a newspaper editorial that he wanted to renegotiate the compacts. The sides have been locked in a dispute ever since about whether the compacts expire on Jan. 1. Stitt claims they do, but the tribes maintain triggers have been met for the compacts to automatically renew.
Salem: The Salem and Brooks vegetable processing plants owned by bankrupt NORPAC Foods could soon reopen after Lineage Logistics filed to purchase the company’s Oregon properties for $49 million, according to court records. The Statesman-Journal reported that a bankruptcy judge is scheduled to hear the petition for the proposed sale Jan. 14 in bankruptcy court in Portland. The sale would include NORPAC’s Willamette Valley processing facilities in Salem, Brooks and Stayton, along with the field shop in Quincy, Washington. NORPAC attorney Al Kennedy said in court that Lineage Logistics will lease the plants in Salem and Brooks from NORPAC until the sale is completed. And Lineage would lease those to Oregon Potato Company to operate until the sale is done, which would allow some of the 1,400 NORPAC workers who had been notified they could be laid off to continue to work. Lineage Logistics, which was formed in 2008, is one of the largest cold storage companies in the world, including operating 169 cold storage warehouses in the United States and more in countries such as China and the United Kingdom.
Washington Crossing: Thousands turned out Wednesday to watch the annual reenactment of George Washington’s daring Christmas Day crossing of the Delaware River in 1776 – the first time the crossing was completed in three years. The event was scrapped because of bad weather the last two years, but historical interpreter Nancy O’Leary said at Washington Crossing Historical Park that the conditions this year “couldn’t be better.” Jennifer Martin, executive director of the Friends of Washington Crossing Park. estimated that 4,500 to 5,000 people were watching the event, the highlight of a historical reenactment that draws people to the banks of the river in Washington Crossing and Titusville, New Jersey. Other activities included Washington’s address to his troops, historical speeches and processions, and staff in period clothing providing public interpretation. In the original crossing, boats ferried 2,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 18 cannons across the river. Washington’s troops marched 8 miles downriver before battling Hessian mercenaries in the streets of Trenton, New Jersey. Thirty Hessians were killed, and two Continental soldiers froze to death on the march.
Providence: Lawmakers returning to the State House after the holidays will notice some subtle changes to the House and Senate chambers. When lawmakers return in January, they will see new shades of paint on the walls, feel thicker carpet under their feet, sit at revarnished desks, brush past brighter drapes and listen to each other’s speeches on new audio speakers, according to The Providence Journal. In addition, the cracked skylight above the House Speaker’s desk has been repaired as has the domed roof above the Senate chamber, which often leaked when it rained. It was the first significant chamber renovation since the General Assembly downsized in 2003 from 150 seats to the current 113. That renovation also brought computers to lawmakers’ desks for the first time.
Folly Beach: A Charleston-area landmark will be lit up for the holidays. The Post and Courier reportsed that Dominion Energy and a group dedicated to saving the Morris Island Lighthouse will illuminate the lighthouse from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. The lighthouse also was illuminated on Christmas Day. Dominion spokesperson Persida Montanez said engineers will use 12-volt batteries, LED lights and a solar panel to provide light. The lighthouse was constructed in 1876, but has faced severe erosion.
Rapid City: Area schools and two radio stations raised more than $14,000 to give gift cards to students who don’t have a permanent address this year. In all, the Rapid City Journal reported Tuesday that 573 students will each receive $25 Visa gift cards. The radio stations that helped in the effort were 97.9 the Breeze and KLMP. It was part of a campaign called “Hope for the Homeless.” During the four years the schools and radio stations collaborated on the effort, they haved raised nearly $45,000 for gifts to homeless middle and high school students.
Nashville: Tennessee’s county health department clinics are offering flu vaccines at no charge. Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey encouraged anyone who has not received a flu shot this season to get one as soon as possible. The state Health Department suggested contacting local health departments for information. Information about nearby departments is available online. Free flu vaccines are also available at the Shelby County Health Department in Memphis and the Metro Public Health Department in Nashville, in addition to health departments run by the state throughout Tennessee, the state said. Even after being vaccinated, the state Health Department recommends washing hands with soapy water or using alcohol-based hand sanitizers and covering coughs and sneezes with a sleeve or tissue to help prevent the spread of illness. People who are sick should stay home so they can recover and avoid infecting others.
Austin: A resident who was diagnosed with measles is no longer a health threat, but officials are urging some people to get medical attention if they develop a fever before New Year’s Day. Public health officials made the plea to anyone who visited specific Austin locations that the affected resident was in between Dec. 14 and Dec. 17. The Austin American-Statesman created a map of those locations. The resident is currently not in Texas. Measles is a virus that can cause high fever, cough, runny nose and red watery eyes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A rash appears 3 to 5 days after the first symptoms, but other complications include pneumonia and encephalitis. Health officials first alerted people in Austin about the measles case and potential exposure on Sunday, a day after state agencies were informed by Virginia officials, said Dr. Mark Escott, the interim health authority at Austin Public Health. The person traveled to Virginia on Dec. 17. The person, whom officials are not identifying, contracted the disease while traveling in Europe from late November to early December and became sick on Dec. 14, Escott said. He noted that the person developed a rash on Dec. 17, which is the day they boarded United Airlines Flight 790 from Austin to Chicago, with a connecting flight to Virginia. The person’s measles case is the first reported in Travis County since 1999, the Statesman reported. Officials didn’t disclose if the person was vaccinated.
Brighton: A second ski resort near Salt Lake City is changing its parking policy to favor carpooling amid concerns about traffic congestion in a canyon home to popular ski resorts. Starting Wednesday, Brighton Resort designated prime parking areas for visitors with three people or more in their cars on holidays like Christmas that are often popular days to ski, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. Officials said the policy applies to weekends, holidays and powder days. It could encourage more people to share cars or take public transportation on days when cars full of skiers can lead to long lines of traffic snaking through the snow-covered mountains. Single drivers or those with one passenger must park at a further lot, where a shuttle service will ferry them to the lifts. When that lot near the resort store is full, people will be asked to turn around and park along the road, or return to the mouth of the canyon and take public transit. The move comes after neighboring Solitude Mountain Resort, also in Big Cottonwood Canyon, made the unusual move to start charging noncarpooling guests $20 to park. The price drops to $10 if the car has three occupants and $5 for four or more people. Park staffers have said their goal isn’t to make money but rather to ease traffic gridlock. Season pass holders at both Brighton and Solitude can ride free on the canyon bus routes offered by the Utah Transit Authority.
Jericho: The Army Mountain Warfare School in Jericho will get $30 million in federal funding for a new facility, the Vermont National Guard announced this week. The funding is part of the defense budget signed by President Donald Trump on Friday. Groundbreaking is likely to happen late next year, the Guard said. Members of the school provided mountain warfare and cold-weather training to U.S. and Afghan conventional operations forces on deployments in 2005 and 2010, the Guard said. Instructors served as experts on mountain warfare in Afghanistan. The $30 million appropriation will support “a critically important but previously unfunded priority of the Army,” said U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy in a written statement on Monday. The design of the 82,600-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility will start as early as January, said Michael Bleau, deputy construction and facilities management officer. Construction is expected to be completed in early 2022, he said.
Raven: A company that owns a coal mine has furloughed 600 workers until the end of the year. The reported reason behind the move is the trade war between the U.S. and China. The Bristol Herald Courier reported Monday that Coronado Coal idled its mining facility in Buchanan County on Dec. 16. Tarah Kesterson, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, said the company cited the trade war between China and the U.S. as a reason for the furlough. But she said the company also plans to bring the mine back into full production by Jan. 1. Coronado did not specify what it was looking for between China and the U.S. But tensions appeared to ease earlier this month with the announcement of a “Phase One” trade deal. China has agreed to buy an additional $200 billion worth of American goods and services. That agreement is expected to be signed in January. The idling of the mine in Buchanan County caps a tumultuous year for southwest Virginia’s coal industry. The region also saw the bankruptcy of Blackjewel LLC. The firm employed more than 480 people in the state.
North Bend: The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Police is asking for the public’s help to find the person or people who killed three cow elks and left them to waste in North Bend. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that police said in a Facebook post that three cow elks were found the weekend of Dec. 14 shot with archery equipment and left to die in the area behind Ken’s Truck Town Diner in North Bend. Two of the elks were found with matching arrows, and the third was found with a different type of arrow and broad head. Police said that those who provide information leading to an arrest might be eligible for a cash reward or bonus points for special permit hunting opportunities.
Morgantown: Eligible employees at Mon Health System will soon be offered 14 straight days of paid parental leave. Mon Health System President and CEO David Goldberg announced in a news release that the new policy will take effect at the start of the new year. WBOY-TV reported that if both spouses or partners are employed by Mon Health, each will be afforded the same benefit. Mon Health also operates Mon Health Preston Memorial Hospital and Mon Health Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital. Congress passed a bill earlier this month giving the country’s 2.1 million government employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave as part of a defense bill that President Donald Trump signed into law. But it still leaves about 80% of U.S. workers in the private sector with no access to paid family leave. The U.S. is one of a handful of countries that lacks a federal policy, at least for new mothers, leaving employers to decide whether to offer it.
Rib Mountain: The Salvation Army in Wausau said it got to 80% of its $170,000 Red Kettle fundraising goal before the holiday campaign ended on Christmas Eve. The organization told WSAW-TV donations have dropped in recent years and a lack of volunteers is one of the factors. Lt. Donna Thammavongsa with Wausau’s Salvation Army said another reason for falling short is that people don’t carry as much cash anymore. The Red Kettle campaign is more than 100 years old. It’s the Salvation Army’s largest annual fundraiser.
Casper: No evidence links hydraulic fracturing to contaminated groundwater in central Wyoming, according to a state Department of Environmental Quality report. The contamination near Pavillion likely occurred naturally because of permeable geology in the gas-drilling area, the report released Monday found. However, absence of data from before drilling began in the mid-1900s limits scientists trying to determine the exact source of the contamination, the report stated. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigation began in 2008 and led to draft findings in 2011 that theorized a link between the contamination and nearby hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process uses pressurized water, mixed with sand and chemicals, to split open underground deposits and boost oil and gas production. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry cautioned residents not to drink the water. The EPA, however, didn’t complete its report and handed the investigation over to state officials. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality announced in 2013 it would conduct a thorough study of the 12-square-mile Pavillion gas field with help from $1. million from Encana Oil and Gas USA, Inc., the Canadian-based company operating the site, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. Several environmental groups and landowners expressed skepticism about the additional research.
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2019/12/26/rare-black-rhino-born-dengue-fever-santa-lady-disputed-lincoln-hat-news-around-states/40887925/
Subscribe to the newsletter news
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe